Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Enter the Dragon

From his speed and showmanship on the big screen to his deep thinking and personal teachings, Bruce Lee has popularized eastern martial arts in the modern world and revolutionized the martial arts world in his short 32 year life. He broke box office records in Hong Kong twice consecutively with his first two films, The Big Boss (1971) and Fist of Fury (1972), and cofounded his own film company, Concord Productions. He has influenced modern martial arts with his ideology of Jeet Kune Do, translated as Way of the Intercepting Fist, and has taught famous martial artists such as Chuck Norris and Dan Inosanto and has influenced others such as Jackie Chan and Jet Li.

On November 27, 1940, in both the hour and year of the Dragon, Jun Fan (Bruce) Lee was born in San Francisco to a traveling Hong Kong Opera singer and his half-Chinese half-German wife. Moving back to Hong Kong at 3 months old, Lee grew up a child actor and would later excel in dance, winning a cha-cha competition at the age of 18. His formal martial arts background would not start until his teenager years under the tutelage of Sifu (Master) Yip Man, a master of Wing Chun Gung Fu and made famous by the recent Ip Man movies. Lee was known as a delinquent, often getting into street fights, and would later be sent to San Francisco then Seattle in 1959 to live with family friends and finish high school. Living a dual life as an American and Chinese, Lee was constantly discriminated against in American culture through his daily life and his roles in Hollywood and also in Chinese culture by being only three quarters Chinese and teaching Gung Fu to non-Chinese students. From this discrimination, his passion for martial arts, and his background in Philosophy from University of Washington, Lee developed not a new martial art but a new system or ideology towards martial arts known as Jeet Kune Do. This ideology focused on simplicity and internalizing what is useful and discarding what is not. He took ideas and forms from different philosophies and different martial arts to create a fluid art that did not discriminate at all by race, gender, ethnicity, or religion.

Bruce Lee's creativity and success was driven by his past and his thirst for knowledge. He constantly delved into different martial art styles and schools of thought to find and create his own way of life. Similar Collins and Amabile's article "Motivation and Creativity," Lee had an intrinsic motivation to go into Hollywood and change the stereotype of the weak Asian and to create a martial arts system for all.





  1. Bruce Lee is certainly a unique creative akin to innovators in dance and athletics. I especially appreciated your illumination of the ways Lee used his experiences of discrimination and ostracization to create a hybrid new martial art. I wonder if his overall impact would have been different without the technology of film at that time. I also wonder if his martial arts style would have been positively or negatively impacted by the internet age today. Would he have been as successful with the high incidence of content and content creators on the internet? Would his martial art have looked different if he had more exposure to other forms of martial arts through videos and tutorials on the web?

  2. I just watched a documentary about Enter the Dragon that reminded me a lot of this course! As a martial artist, I believe that each student is a creator on their own, because of the dependance your practice has on your own body. I could not use another person's method exactly, because my own body will limit the execution. Bruce Lee used his creativity with martial arts to spread awareness of the practice, which I believe is a universally good thing to learn. While spreading martial arts awareness, I think this fame helped him also normalize being a mixed-race person in the United States and made him a role model for children who faced the same discrimination.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.